At the bottom of this article, you will find the translation into the other working languages of the ILO.

For us at the ILO, 1st of May rhymes with Public Holiday (yeah!) and we know it is International Workers’ Day. It is “our” special day.

We use it in different ways – to spend time with loved one, to prolong a holiday, go on a hike, to relax, to Unite with peers. All those are good ways to spend May Day and for the latter option you can join your Staff Union’s March (details in Broadcast if you are based in HQ)!! – or join local events in country offices!

At the dawn of the 21st century, is it “has been” to Unite for a march? For your Staff Union, it is more relevant than ever, because:

  1. It is a fun way to meet new and old colleagues, chat informally, outside of the Office
  2. Uniting was always the starting point for workers who managed to defend their rights!!

At the end of the 19th century, this international holiday was born out of American trade unions’ struggle to obtain the 8-hour day. On 1st May 1886, a general strike gathered about 340,000 people throughout the country and on 4th of May, a peaceful demonstration of support to workers rights, the Haymarket massacre occurred in Chicago. Today’s demonstrations are in commemoration of these events ( How many of us, ILO staff will gather for 1st May march this year?

Nowadays, Unions continue to face many evolutions and challenges. To reflect on our own capacity to mobilize, let us borrow a bit of ILO ACTRAV knowledge:

Trade unions face multiple – external and internal – challenges, ranging from violations of trade union rights, a changing employment relationship, structural economic change and shocks to effective governance. However, all these come together in one core element, and that is trade union’s ability to shape a “World of Work that Works for Workers”, based on the respect of workers’ rights and decent working conditions for all workers. (…) Based on these multiple challenges and trade union responses to these, one can distinguish four scenarios for the future of trade unions : (i) marginalization, understood to mean decreasing rates of unionization and ageing unions; (ii) dualization, where trade unions defend current positions and service the members closest to them; (iii) replacement, which points towards competition between trade unions and other actors; and (iv) revitalization, where trade unions use innovative tactics and coalitions to strengthen trade unions as strong, relevant, democratic and representative actors.”[1]

What future do we want for our ILO Staff Union?

Think of your colleague(s) on a short term contract who struggle to plan their future, think of well performing colleagues not retained by the Office as there is no plan for rewarding them with a new contract, think of your ill colleague struggling with SHIF rules, think of of your overworked colleague(s) who regularly send emails late at night – or are you, yourself, going through any of this ?

Think of the Staff Union “No paycut campaign” of 2017 which helped us avoid the pay cut, think of the dedication to social justice of ILO staff more generally… isn’t that worth uniting?

In countries where we are lucky to march with no oppression – let us honour and celebrate our colleagues throughout the world and keep our union values at heart. And remember that you Staff Union reps are here to collect your feedback. Remember that you, as well, are part of the Union.

Let us revitalize your Staff Union. On 1st May, everyday!

Version française (deepl): ici

Spanish version (deepl) : aquí

[1] Trade Unions as Actors for Change (ACTRAV) (

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